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Fallout: New Vegas Second Opinion

Brad Gallaway's picture

They Rolled the Dice and it Came Up Seven

Fallout: New Vegas Screenshot

HIGH My personal balls-out resolution to the Ultra-Luxe Casino quest.

LOW Getting confused and stuck in Vault 22—twice.

WTF Even after the last patch, several big bugs and glitches remain.

The timing of Fallout: New Vegas couldn't have been worse.

Although it arrived almost exactly two years after Fallout 3, it still felt a little too soon. I had spent over a hundred hours in the wastelands of DC, and while that game became one of my all-time favorites, I didn't feel a strong urge to repeat the experience. Even worse, New Vegas was released with a wealth of glitches, bugs and technical problems—issues so common and severe that several friends had quit the game out of frustration and warned me away from it.

Jump ahead one year.

Having completed my review duties for 2011, I found myself with a span of free time and the desire to play a big Western-style RPG. I knew that New Vegas had been patched several times since release, and that all of its DLC was available. Having purchased a copy at a deep, deep, deep discount, I figured I had nothing to lose—at the very least, it would be as bad as people told me it was, and I'd just move onto the next thing in my backlog.

Although Fallout: New Vegas follows the same basic template of wandering a post-apocalyptic land set by its predecessor, a number of factors come together to create an experience that's superior in nearly every respect. I was quite surprised to find that it's one of the best RPGs I've ever played.

When the game begins, the player takes on the role of "The Courier"—a person with no backstory other than knowing they were delivering a package before getting robbed and shot in the head. It's not much to go on, and I wasn't sure what to make of it at first. However, I eventually grew to appreciate that Obsidian left it so open. Having the ability to be any kind of character that I desired was a perfect fit for the freedom to make significant, game-altering decisions as I saw fit—and choice? Fallout: New Vegas has it in spades.

Fallout: New Vegas Screenshot

At nearly every turn, the player will encounter characters that need something or offer an opportunity. These people are sometimes free agents, but are usually associated with one of the various factions populating the desert. It's up to the player whether to indulge them, and if so, to choose between good, evil, or other. For example, performing missions for the militaristic New California Republic can end in supporting them, or undercutting them via sabotage. If neither of those appeal, players can look for an opportunity to further their own agenda, everyone else be damned. This help/hinder leeway holds significance on two levels; the first is that it lets the player be as benevolent or as poisonous as they like, and secondly, it determines how the inhabitants of New Vegas will relate.

This web of relationships built by currying favor with one group or becoming the enemy of another builds a connection and buy-in that's hard to ignore. I might not have been very inclined towards supporting the NCR at the game's beginning, but after having seen towns ravaged by Caesar's Legion, the phrase "the enemy of your enemy is your friend" proved to be quite true of over the course of my adventure. On the other hand, choices must be weighed extremely carefully. Is it worthwhile to fulfill the request of a close friend even if it means that friendly soldiers nearby will be cut off from resupply? What's more important, maintaining a reliable source of plasma weapons, or trying to bolster the competing business of someone who may be of help later?

Further enhancing the game is that the quests available are incredibly varied and interesting—in fact, I am hard-pressed to think of anything in my experience that's done better than Fallout: New Vegas. From the trivial to the grand, from the mundane to the bizarre, Obsidian has something for everyone here, and almost every bit of it is worth seeing.

I will never forget helping Boone figure out what became of his wife in the town of Novac. Locating an undead cowboy dominatrix? Did it. Having a meal with the Great Khans and tricking one of the attendees into embarrassing himself to a fatal degree? A high point. I felt warm fuzzies when I brought together two lovers separated by a bombardment zone, and the Pulp Fiction-style resolution to the events uncovered in the Ultra-Luxe Casino will go down as one of the most exciting segments of gameplay I've had the pleasure of experiencing. When it comes to quests, New Vegas is second to none.

Other areas of the game are just as strong and smart. For example, the player can meet memorable companions full of personality to accompany him on his journey, but it's rarely as simple as "Hi, please come with me." Even better, once found, each companion has a request or an issue that needs solving. However, in stark contrast to other recent RPGs like Skyrim or Mass Effect 2, the player has to work hard and get to know the character before they will open up. It makes more sense, feels more rewarding, and gives the companions greater depth.

Fallout: New Vegas Screenshot

Apart from this, the dialogue in general never fails to be smart, quite witty, and a few notches above what other developers turn out. Incidentally, I was thrilled to see that Fallout: New Vegas handles homosexuality in a way that's shockingly mature and accepting. The respectful treatment of gay and lesbian characters was stunning, and if for nothing else, the writing team absolutely deserves the highest possible praise for this work.

I could go on lavishing praise for quite some time, but as with any project, there are aspects that don't quite hit the mark. Small issues like confusing maps leading to wandering in circles can irritate, and crafting ammunition feels misguided—it's a lot of extra inventory to parse through, and doesn't seem worth the effort with so much ammo available for purchase. I also felt that adding "damage tolerance" on top of damage dealt, on top of changing ammo types needlessly complicated gameplay that should be streamlined.

However, those things can largely be ignored or worked around with little effort. A larger concern is the fact that even though New Vegas has been patched, I still encountered several bugs and problems that should not be there.

For instance, my companion Veronica had a glitched personal quest that was impossible to start—very disappointing, since she was one of my favorites. One quest in Jacobstown could not be completed because the person I needed to speak to kept getting killed by ambient wildlife. One quest deep in Legion territory auto-failed a matter of seconds after I began it, for no apparent reason. Towards the end of the game, a boat I needed to take simply vanished, leaving me no way to get to my destination. I could go on.

I realize that a game as large and intricate as New Vegas must be indescribably difficult to properly bug-test, but the fact remains that the game shipped broken, and even a year after its release, it's still having some issues. Nothing was more heartbreaking to me than falling in love with this game and finding that parts of it are still busted...  In light of the problems I encountered, it is to Obsidian's credit that I walked away with an almost entirely positive view on things.

Although the still-questionable technical side cast a faint shadow on the experience, I still cherished my time with New Vegas and would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone interested in a top-flight Role-Playing Game—strong emphasis on the role playing. Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Disclosures: This game was obtained via retail store and reviewed on the Xbox 360. Approximately 44 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Category Tags
Platform(s): Xbox 360   PS3   PC  
Developer(s): Obsidian  
Key Creator(s): Chris Avellone   Feargus Urquhart  
Publisher: Bethesda  
Series: Fallout  
Genre(s): Role-Playing   Shooting   Open World  
ESRB Rating: Mature (17+)  
Articles: Game Reviews  

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Nice review. 1 question, is

Nice review.
1 question, is all that DLC really worth the extra costs?
The normal edition is at a great pricelevel, but the Ultimate Edition coming out next year is pretty expensive. Is it worth it?

Nice review

Thanks so much for writing the review. Even though New Vegas is not a hot topic anymore with Skyrim taking the stage, I appreciate you still took the time to write down your thoughts. And it's actually nice to read a well thought-out article about the game since most reviews were written when the game was just released and panned it for all the bugginess. A year after release we're closer to what the developers had in mind I guess.
I really like New Vegas aswell. Like you write, the communities and quests are wonderfully inventive and the New Vegas setting gives a lot of atmosphere to the game and changes the themes from the barrenness in Fall-Out 3 to a struggle for riches and powers.
However, I was dissapointed that the communities felt very seperate most of the times. Except the NCR and the Legion you could really tell the factions were developed seperately and there was little interplay between them, safe from a few remarks in the dialogue. Also, the story was a lot less gripping than the story in Fall-Out 3. That game starts as an emotional quest for your dad and ends up in the brilliant debate about producing and controlling the fresh, non-polluted water supply, determining the fate the entire wasteland. New Vegas starts as a simple revenge story and ends up with a struggle for power over the riches of New Vegas. While the story of New Vegas is not terrible, it is much less emotionally involving, which produces less of a narrative "drive" in my opinion.
But I don't mean to sound too negative about the game. It is very creative and colourful and I enjoyed my time spent with it a lot.

Hey everybody, thanks for

Hey everybody, thanks for the comments.

As for the DLC, I'm doing full reviews for each add-on, so all four of those will be up soon.

= )


Great review. I just completed the main story a couple months ago and have been meaning to go back and try out alternate paths. I haven't sunk nearly as much time into New Vegas as FO3, but it's still a lot of fun. I have noticed a handful of lingering bugs/glitches, but nothing gamebreaking, thankfully.

First I'll say that I agree

First I'll say that I agree with the review, and loved the game.

But I have to ask how you can give this game such a high score, when you damn Skyrim for "game breaking bugs". The difference between the 2 games in terms of bugs isn't even comparable. I never once met a bug in Skyrim that kept me from completing the game or a quest. The same cannot be said of New Vegas. Near the end of New Vegas the game would freeze every 30 minutes or so. Skyrim might freeze once every few play sessions. In New Vegas there were times when I got locked in a dungeon and couldnt get out and had to reload a save. Never happened in Skyrim.

I often agree with you and feel you are fair, but I can't reconcile this. I understand you just didnt like Skyrim, its writing is no where near as good as New Vegas', much in the same way the bugs in Skyrim are no where near as bad as they were in New Vegas. And to criticize Bethesda for shipping an "incomplete" game, while glossing over and seemingly being able to get past bugs in New Vegas that were legitimately game breaking and frequently occurring isnt fair in my opinion.

I guess bugs only matter if you dont care for the core game. And by "you" I mean the universal "you" not you in particular.

Hey Justin, thanks for your

Hey Justin, thanks for your comment.

To answer your question, I think it's important to note when the review was written - December, 2011. The game was first released in October 2010, so I didn't even start the game until more than a year after its release.

As I say in the opening paragraphs of my review, I knew it had problems at launch. But, by the time I got around to F:NV, it had been patched several times and was working pretty well, or at least, better than it did at launch.

Did it still have problems? Absolutely, but the game overall was so outstanding that it still gave an above-average experience despite all the remaining minor bugs. I reviewed it at 40-ish hours, but I kept on playing for another 60 hours or so. For me, that's the sign of a fantastic game.

Looking at Skyrim, I played it right when it launched, and all of the bugs were still fresh. Compounding the problem, Skyrim is just a boring, dry game with incredibly dull writing and equally dull quests.

I'm sure I would have been more forgiving if the game was any fun to play, but boring game + super buggy = No thanks.

Bottom line, minor bugs are forgivable if the game is great. New Vegas? Pretty damned great. Skyrim? Not so much.

Thanks for replying,

Thanks for replying, especially to a comment for a review that you wrote so long ago. I meant to ask you this for sometime, but, you know. Forgetful.

I played New Vegas at launch. Later sold it. Then later purchased the GOTY version with all the dlc. I really didn't see alot of difference between the level of bugs between the 2. The game seemed just as buggy if not more a year or so later than it did at launch. I also played Skyrim at launch and didn't experience anything even close on the level of New Vegas. So I just can't understand how you can say New Vegas had "minor" bugs you could ignore, but Skyrim's bugs were "super" and unignorable.

I understand that you don't like Skyrim, and that's ok, I'm not trying to change your mind or anything. I just think, that if bugs matter, they should matter universally. And if they don't, why should they be part of any review? Just like you, I can get past bugs, even major bugs, if I like the game enough. But to say Skyrim's bugs are worse than New Vegas' bugs dosen't strike me as honest. And if a week or two of backwards flying dragons is a damnable offence, then I don't understand how a game that gave me a full system freeze every 30 minutes (or worse) isn't just called garbage.

Hey Justin. Well, it's hard

Hey Justin.

Well, it's hard to treat bugs 'universally' since everyone's experience is different. It definitely sounds like you had more issues with F:NV than I did. FOr me, the level of irritation was much higher in Skyrim. Everyone's mileage varies.

Bottom line, though... If you allow that both games have issues and then take the bugs out of the equation when evaluating them, F:NV kicks the crap out of Skyrim and that's all that really matters.

= )

Thanks for replying

Thanks for replying again.

I'll give you that. My experience was that about 40-50 hours into New Vegas, the game would start falling apart. I've played well over 100 hrs of Skyrim and maybe get the occasional freeze. And yes Skyrim can get a bit dull at times, which is why I almost always listen to music or podcasts while I play.

And I'd really like to see Obsidian stop making games, since they generally turn out being a mess. I'd like to see them do the writing & concepting and let other companies actually make the games. They have some of the best writing and ideas for games but generally do a poor job building the game.

Before we end this conversation, being that this is a comment section on the internet, shouldn't we end it with juvenile name calling and insults?

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